Both the Saints and the Buccaneers knew when they lost last week that any realistic playoff hopes were over. But the Saints played on Sunday like they still care. The Bucs played like they’ve quit.
On a day when everything went right for the Saints and everything went wrong for the Buccaneers, New Orleans jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its first drive, extended it to 24-0 by halftime, and cruised to a 41-0 final.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees had an outstanding day, with four touchdowns and no interceptions, while Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman had a terrible day, with no touchdowns and four interceptions. The quarterback position is the obvious difference between these two teams.
But an even bigger difference was simply that the Saints came out looking like this game mattered, while the Buccaneers came out looking like they didn’t care. This game has to be a huge disappointment to first-year Bucs coach Greg Schiano. After taking over a team that gave up on the 2011 season, Schiano had his team playing tough, competitive football for most of this season, and although the Bucs didn’t look like a playoff team, they didn’t look very far away, either. But a game like this calls into question whether Schiano’s Bucs have much fight left in them.
And say this for the Saints: For everything that went wrong this year, with their coach suspended and their team’s integrity questioned in the NFL’s bounty investigation, this team is playing hard. And today, this Saints team played very, very well.